Principle 6 - More Information

Principle 6 - More Information


As the Web has become more important to the economy and society, it is ever more important to consider social impacts in the design and the deployment of new web based technologies. Therefore, development and implementation of web technologies should take into account more than serving an individual user’s interests but consider the collective promotion and protection of human rights, as well as addressing sustainable development goals.

Responsible design of web technologies does not follow a single, simple formula. However, it can be shaped by developing a shared set of guiding principles, and substantive constraints. Steps should therefore be taken to ensure that web based technologies are developed and deployed in a way that is inclusive, accountable, transparent and seek social justice.

This Principle is focused on the frameworks, methods and metrics that might best guide developers, civil society and governments in working together to foresee and solve the problems they might create, as well as harnessing the affordances of the web towards ensuring positive outcomes.

Human Rights Framework

This section includes non-exhaustive list of references to United Nations documents that provide a foundation for the interpretation of human rights in the context of the Web. 

Principle 6
The protection and promotion of Human Rights and the web‘s architecture and technical design choices are interconnected. Acknowledging that other sections of the contract specifically address the rights to privacy and accessibility, we understand the norms proposed under Principle 6 are rooted in human rights, such as:

Preamble to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR): ‘Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights.’

“The Guiding Principles [on business and human rights] establish a framework according to which companies should, at a minimum:

a. Avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts and seek to prevent or mitigate such impacts directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts (principle 13);
b. Make high-level policy commitments to respect the human rights of their users (principle 16);
c. Conduct due diligence that identifies, addresses and accounts for actual and potential human rights impacts of their activities, including through regular risk and impact assessments, meaningful consultation with potentially affected groups and other stakeholders, and appropriate follow-up action that mitigates or prevents these impacts (principles 17−19);
d. Engage in prevention and mitigation strategies that respect principles of internationally recognized human rights to the greatest extent possible when faced with conflicting local law requirements (principle 23);
e. Conduct ongoing review of their efforts to respect rights, including through regular consultation with stakeholders, and frequent, accessible and effective communication with affected groups and the public (principles 20−21); 
f. Provide appropriate remediation, including through operational-level grievance mechanisms that users may access without aggravating their “sense of disempowerment”(principles 22, 29 and 31).”
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, 2018, (A/HRC/38/35)

“The integration of human rights policies throughout a company may be the biggest challenge in fulfilling the corporate responsibility to respect. As is true for States, human rights considerations are often isolated within a company. That can lead to inconsistent or contradictory actions: product developers may not consider human rights implications; sales or procurement teams may not know the risks of entering into relationships with certain parties; and company lobbying may contradict commitments to human rights. Leadership from the top is essential to embed respect for human rights throughout a company, as is training to ensure consistency, as well as capacity to respond appropriately when unforeseen situations arise.” 

John Ruggie – Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, 7 April 2018 (A/HRC/8/5)

“Public consultations and engagement should occur prior to the finalization or roll-out of a product or service, in order to ensure that they are meaningful, and should encompass engagement with civil society, human rights defenders and representatives of marginalized or underrepresented end users. The results of human rights impact assessments and public consultations should themselves be made public.”

David Kaye – Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, 29 August 2018 (A/73/348)

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): ‘everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

“Ensuring an internet free from gender-based violence enhances freedom of expression… as it allows women to fully participate in all areas of life and is integral to women’s empowerment… Online gender-based abuse and violence are undeniably a scourge, and governments and companies should be taking action against it.” 

Joint Communiqué by Dubravka Šimonović – Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and David Kaye – Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

“Terms of service should move away from a discretionary approach rooted in generic and self-serving ‘community’ needs. Companies should instead adopt high-level policy commitments to maintain platforms for users to develop opinions, express themselves freely and access information of all kinds in a manner consistent with human rights law. These commitments should govern their approach to content moderation and to complex problems such as computational propaganda.”

David Kaye – Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, 6 April 2018 (A/HRC/38/35)

Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): ‘… All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.’

“Business enterprises in the ICT sector should embed gender equality and diversity as core values across organizational and employment policies… 

States and business enterprises should act to prevent and combat online violence against women. They should collect comprehensive data on the extent and nature of online violence against women and conduct further research to understand and address its underlying causes and how best to combat it. Civil society should monitor this data collection to ensure it is done in an effective and gender-sensitive manner… 

When involved in content moderation, business enterprises, including Internet intermediaries, should put in place clear, transparent and proportionate procedures, respecting human rights, in particular women’s rights, and the rights to privacy and to freedom of opinion and expression. Relevant staff, both female and male, should be trained accordingly. Business enterprises should ensure that information about their terms of service and how these are enforced is adequate, understandable and easily available to all users.”

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 5 May 2017 (A/HRC/35/9)

Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): ‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.’

“With the Internet emerging as a critical platform for scientific and cultural flows and exchanges, freedom of access to the Internet and maintaining its open architecture are important for upholding the right to participate in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.”

Frank La Rue – Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, 16 May 2011 (A/HRC/17/27)

The sections above are a small subset of the many Human Rights that CEOs, entrepreneurs and developers of web applications should uphold through their work. 

Other Existing Frameworks

This section includes references to frameworks that third parties have developed to further delineate rights and principles in the context of the Web. Though this list is not exhaustive, it can provide further support to those interested in understanding the Contract’s objectives.

Beyond the core International Human Rights law and The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the following existing frameworks are particularly informative:

RFCs from the Working group at the IETF about Human Rights Protocol Consideration: The Human Rights Protocol Considerations Research Group is chartered to research whether standards and protocols can enable, strengthen or threaten human rights, specifically, but not limited to the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly. As an exercise to translate technical terms into human rights, it might be an important initiative to keep track as it has the goal to provide guidelines to inform future protocol development and decision making where protocols impact the effective exercise of the right to freedom of expression or association.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: Recommendations addressed by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. They provide non-binding principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a global context consistent with applicable laws and internationally recognized standards.


This section provides a set of references that may help those seeking to understand the technical terminology used in the Contract.

At the end of each definition, there is a reference to the key Principles to which each definition relates. Key: Governments: Principles 1-3; Companies: Principles 4-6; Citizens: Principles 7-9

  • Affordability of internet access: the extent to which internet use is limited by the cost of access relative to income levels (Source: A4AI 2018 Affordability Report). – Relevant to Principle 1
  • Barriers for people with disabilities: limitations faced by people with varied hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive abilities in the ways they can navigate the internet, contribute to and enjoy the tools made available through it (UNESCO). – Also see “Web Accessibility. – Relevant to Principle 4
  • Civil discourse: engagement in conversation with the purpose of enhancing understanding. It requires respect of the other participants; avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experience (Source: K.J. Gergen -Read More: Wikipedia). – Relevant to Principles 7-9
  • Community networks: telecommunications infrastructure deployed and operated by a local group to meet their own communication needs. They are the result of people working together, combining their resources, organizing their efforts, and connecting themselves to close connectivity and cultural gaps (Source: ISOC, based on DCCC IRTF). – Relevant to Principles 1 and 4
  • Competent and independent judicial authority: an impartial and independent authority, conversant in issues related to and competent to make judicial decisions about the legality of communications surveillance, the technologies used and human rights involved, and adequately resourced to exercise those functions (Source: Necessary & Proportionate, P6). – Relevant to Principle 3
  • Data: an interpretable representation of information in a formalized manner suitable for communication, interpretation, or processing (Source: ISO). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
  • Data breach: a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed (Source: GDPR, Article 4(12)). – Relevant to Principle 3
  • Digital literacy: the skills and capabilities needed to participate fully, effectively and equally in our digital world (Source: Web Foundation). – Relevant to Principle 1
  • Dig once regulations: “refers to policies that allow for and/or encourage deployment of conduit and fiber in transportation rights of way during other infrastructure improvement projects. This can include, for example, installing pipes under roadbeds that can house numerous internet cables. Rather than digging up the road each time a new company wants to install high-speed internet cables, the Dig Once infrastructure would permit companies access to their cables, allowing for upgrades and additions as needed” (Source: IEEE). – Relevant to Principle 1
  • Diversity: diversity means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences, which include but are not limited to age, ethnicity, class, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, national origin, religious status, gender expression, educational background, geographical location, income, marital status, parental status, work experiences, among others (Source: UN: Delivering successful change on diversity and inclusion in the UN). – Relevant to Principle 6
  • Gender inclusive: a process that refers to how well different gender identities are included as equally valued players in initiatives. Gender-inclusive projects, programmes, political processes and government services are those which have protocols in place to ensure all genders are included and have their voices heard and opinions equally valued (Source: Adapted from UNDP). Inclusion policies have become key to close the measurable gap between women and men in their access to, use of and ability to influence, contribute to and benefit from ICTs (Source: A/HRC/35/9). – Relevant to Principles 1,4 and 6
  • Gender responsive: refers to outcomes that reflect an understanding of gender roles and inequalities and which make an effort to encourage equal participation and equal and fair distribution of benefits (Source: UNDP). – Relevant to Principles 1 and 4
  • Human Rights: “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination (Source: United Nations). – Relevant to all Principles.
  • Individual profiling: any form of automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behavior, location or movements (Source: GDPR, Art. 4(4)). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
  • Inferred data: personal data that is usually derived or assigned to an individual from interpretations of other data shared by the individual and/or collected through observation of the individual’s use of an online service or device, including connected objects (Source: EU Guidelines on the right to data portability, pg. 10). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
  • Infrastructure sharing: sharing telecommunications infrastructure (such as towers, high sites, ducts, fibre cables, antennas or transmission components) by competing operators (Source: IFC). – Relevant to Principle 1
  • Infrastructure sharing (active): the sharing of active elements in the radio access network such as antennas and radio network controllers (RNC). National roaming is a form of active sharing (Source: BEREC) – Relevant to Principles 1 and 4
  • Infrastructure sharing (passive): is the sharing of the passive elements of network infrastructure such as masts, sites, cabinet, power, and air conditioning (Source: BEREC). – Relevant to Principles 1 and 4
  • Interoperability: the ability of different types of computers, networks, operating systems, and applications to work together effectively, without prior communication, in order to exchange information in a useful and meaningful manner (Source: DC). – Relevant to Principles 2 and 6
  • Legality: restrictions [to art. 19.3 of the ICCPR, regarding the right to freedom of expression] must be “provided by law”. In particular, they must be adopted by regular legal processes and limit government discretion in a manner that distinguishes between lawful and unlawful expression with “sufficient precision”. Secretly adopted restrictions fail this fundamental requirement. The assurance of legality should generally involve the oversight of independent judicial authorities (Source: A/HRC/38/35). – Relevant to Principle 2
  • Legitimate public interest: a set of values corresponding to an important legal interest that is necessary in a society, often including, public safety, protection of public order, health and morals, the protection of rights and freedoms of others (Source: ECHR, Article 8(2)). – Relevant to Principle 3
  • Meaningful connectivity: a new global standard that measures not only if someone has accessed the internet, but the quality of connection they have (Source: A4AI). – Relevant to Principle 1
  • Necessity and Proportionality: any restriction [to art. 19.3 of the ICCPR, regarding the right to freedom of expression] should create the least burden on the exercise of the right and actually protects, or is likely to protect the legitimate State interest at issue. States may not merely assert necessity but must demonstrate it, in the adoption of restrictive legislation and the restriction of specific expression (Source: A/HRC/38/35). – Relevant to Principle 2
  • Observed data: personal data that is provided through an individual’s use of an online service or device, including connected objects. Examples include search history, traffic data,location data or heartbeat (Source: EU: Guidelines on the right to data portability) – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
  • Online privacy: a sphere of autonomy in which individuals and communities can explore the Web free from private actors’ and Government’s coercion, control, interference or surveillance (Source: Contextualisation of Lord Lester and D. Pannick (eds.), Human Rights Law and Practice, 2004, para. 4.82 adding the reference to the Web and freedom from interference by private actors.). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
  • Open access rules: all suppliers are able to obtain access to the network facilities on fair and equivalent terms (ITU). – Relevant to Principle 1
  • Open data: “Open data is digital data that is made available with the technical and legal characteristics necessary for it to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime, anywhere.” (Source: Open Data Charter) – Relevant to Principle 6
  • Open knowledge: “Knowledge anyone is free to access, use, modify, and share it — subject, at most, to measures that preserve provenance and openness.” (Source: Open Definition). – Relevant to Principles 6, 7-9
  • Open license: a document that specifies that a work (be it sound, text, image or multimedia) is free for anyone to print out and share, publish on another channel or in print, make alterations or additions, incorporate, in part or in whole, into another piece of work, use as the basis for a work in another medium, and other freedoms (Source: Open Definition – Read More: Wikipedia). – Relevant to Principles 7-9
  • Open source software: software distributed under terms that include the right to: free redistribution of the source code, access and reuse of the source code, including the creation of derived works to be distributed under the same license (with a series of exceptions only if the license allows the distribution of “patch file). OSS, by definition, must not discriminate against persons or groups, or against fields of endeavor. The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed, and must not be specific to a product or restrict other software. Licenses must be technology-neutral (Source: Adapted from OSI; Read More: Wikipedia). – Relevant to Principles 7-9
  • Open source technology: see “Open source software”
  • Open standard: a formal document that establishes uniform technical criteria, and is developed through an open, consensus driven, participatory process, focused on supporting interoperability (Source: W3C/IEEE; with edits based on Ken Krechmer – Read More: Wikipedia). – Relevant to Principles 6, 7, 8 and 9
  • Open Web: this includes two components, a technical and a legal one. Technical: development of web technologies in accordance with the open standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which ensures interoperability across web browsers. Legal: Absence of laws or regulations that restrict people from accessing web content or other web-based technologies over the internet. – Relevant to Principles 7-9
  • Personal data: any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person. An identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, identification number, location data, online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person (Source: GDPR, Article 4(1)). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
  • Privacy / data protection by design: a holistic approach incorporating technology and policy development that places privacy as a central component at the beginning of every service design process(Source: EU Resolution on Privacy by Design and GDPR). – Relevant to Principle 5
  • Public registers: a published list made available online and updated regularly. In this particular context the registers must contain general information on data sharing and/or purchase agreements across the public sector and industry, explaining the types of data that are being shared or purchased, the recipient(s), and purpose(s). Additionally these registers must provide a reference source with general information on data breaches from public and private sources, including the organizations and data categories affected (Source: Inspired by Article 30, Anti-Money Laundering Directive with significant expansion and contextualisation from the Working Group, in particular bringing the types of agreements that are expected to be provided within the registers and the information provided alongside them). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5.
  • Quality of service: in the case of Internet access, quality of service measures not only include speeds, but also delay, jitter, availability, and packet loss (Source: A4AI Qos, GSMA). – Relevant for Principle 4
  • Radio spectrum : the radio frequency spectrum of hertzian waves allocated based on guidance from the ITU, and used as a transmission medium for cellular radio, satellite communication, over-the-air broadcasting and other communication services (Source: ITU). – Relevant to Principle 1
  • Standard technology: see “Open Standard”
  • Sustainable Development Goals: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN in 2015 sets 17 goals: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible production and consumption, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions and partnerships for the goals (Source: UN SDGs). – Relevant to Principle 6
  • Universal service: ensuring every individual within a country has basic internet access service available at an affordable price (Source: adapted from WTO). – Relevant to Principle 1
  • Universal Service and Access Funds (USAFs) are communal public funds dedicated to expanding internet connectivity and access opportunities for those least likely to be connected through market forces alone (Source: A4AI). – Relevant to Principle 1
  • User interface: all components of an interactive system (software or hardware) that provide information and controls for the user to accomplish specific tasks with the interactive system (Source: ISO). – Relevant to Principles 4, 5 and 6.
  • Web accessibility: web technologies that work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability (Source: W3C). – Relevant to Principles 1,4, and 7-9
  • Web technologies: a set of computing technologies that together provide a realization of the “Architecture of the World Wide Web” (Source: W3C). – Relevant to Principle 6